Never mind the baby books. Forget the motherhood magazines. Everything I needed to know about parenting I learned from other parents. Wiser parents. Parents who went before me, hacking through the murky jungles of momhood with the Machete of Courageous Experimentation and calling back to me each time they lurched into the Quicksand of Poor Parenting: “Okay. So you’re gonna need a rope …”
When I was pregnant, a friend advised me to get a pedicure because I’d be spending countless hours of labor staring at my feet in stirrups and would be disheartened if — on top of soul-splitting, sanity-rattling, life-begetting contractions — I had icky toes. I got the pedicure, and the merciful, thank-ya-Jesus foot massage that went with it. It was the best advice I ever got.
The best advice my husband ever got also came while I was pregnant. An experienced dad told him, “Listen, there will be a moment when you have a strong urge to hurl your crying baby at the wall. Sounds crazy, I know. Just trust me, it’ll come. And here’s all you need to remember: Don’t do that.” We figured the guy for a nut-job until … it came. And my husband heeded the advice — relieved to know he wasn’t the only frustrated father to have ever needed it.
Even now, with my oldest entering high school, I’ve benefited from the been-there-learned-that counsel of my friends with older kids: Take Spanish in the summer, bring blankets to the football games, and choose water polo for PE; it’s the only sport where your kids come home nearly clean.